The Internet Course

Is it really the beginning of week 3 of the semester already? Between a rough re-entry from Italy, a couple of snow days, catching up on my day job, and a stomach flu, the new course Paul Bond and I are teaching this semester has been woefully neglected on the bava. This post will try and remedy that.

Paul and I have teamed up again to teach the entry-level Computer Science course CPSC 104, also known as THE INTERNET COURSE. The course provides students with an overview of the history, technical infrastructure, and cultural implications of the internet as a communication revolution. Here is the catalog description:

A survey of the technology and issues underlying the use of the Internet for communication, resource discovery, research, and dissemination of information in multimedia formats. Topics include an introduction to Internet protocols, Internet history and development, electronic mail, use and functions of a Web browser, accessing Internet services and resources, using the Internet for research, Website design and implementation, and social, legal, and ethical issues related to using the Internet.

We are planning on covering all these topics and more, but we’ve decided to take a different approach. Rather than a predefined syllabus with a list of our handpicked readings, we’ve decided to take the first two weeks of class and have the students select the readings. What I love about this approach is that it challenges the popular idea that a course is defined by the pre-selected readings, resources, textbooks, etc. Is that really the case? What if a course were from the very beginning about students contributing to the discussion by critically selecting the sources that make-up the experience. That’s exactly what we’ve done thanks to Paul’s vision for the course. During week 1 we had the class consider how to vett resources with the help of the UMW Library’s CRAAP test video animated by the great Giulia Forsythe and narrated by UMW English professor Gary Richards. CRAAP is an acronym that provides some guidelines for selecting good sources on a topic: currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose.

After we discussed the basics of the CRAAP test in our second class, we broke the roadmap for the class up into eight topics:

  • where it comes from
  • how it works
  • creation/consumption
  • intellectual property/fair use
  • privacy/openness
  • digital identity
  • social/economic/cultural impacts
  • where it’s going

The rest of this class was spent brainstorming subtopics for each of the eight topics. This was an invigorating session because everyone was providing a wide range of solid subtopics that would help them get started on their research. By the end of the hour and fifteen minutes each student was assigned two topics for which they would need to find six readings (3 for each of their two topics) in a weeks time.

Paul came up with a pretty cool system for the submission of these readings so that we could vett them according to the guidelines of the CRAAP test. Paul setup a Google form for students to add their sources that you can see on the course site here. Once they submitted their readings, we color-coded them green, yellow, or red in the spreadsheet based on whether they are good to go (green), questionable (yellow), not acceptable (red). The students can get the feedback on the course site, and return to the library for more and better research if necessary. They need to have at least 3 green sources, and justify anything that is yellow. Paul lays out the system in far better detail in his post “Talking CRAAP.”

The final part of this process is that the students have to summarize the articles they found and tag them with the appropriate topic before publishing them to their blog. After that they will syndicate into the course site and we’ll have 140+ articles linked and summarized as by the beginnign of week 3. What’s more, the articles can be filtered by topic. Paul was inspired by an experiment Michael Wesch did back in 2009. Whereas  it reminds me of some of the work Michael Caulfield is doing currently with his Water106 idea around crowdsourced articles fed into a hub around a specific topic.

I’m really excited by this new approach. We’ll be playing with concept maps this coming week, and after that, for the next 6-8 weeks the students will form panels accordingly to their topics and discuss the readings they found on their topics as a way of interrogating the historical, technical, and cultural elements of THE INTERNET.

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8 Responses to The Internet Course

  1. Green Canoe says:

    I can’t wait to take this course the next time it’s offered. Keep up the good work!

    • Reverend says:

      I can’t wait until you take it. I think we are teaching it this summer, and if Paul agrees in the Fall as well. Stay tuned! Plus, it’s still a bit early in the semester, make sure it doesn’t suck first 😉

  2. Fantastic idea. I was thinking of doing this sort of thing on a smaller scale, asking students in my 4th course on Nietzsche & Foucault to find the secondary literature we’d read in addition to the authors’ own works. But the problem was, to do that well they’d need to have read the works first to know which topics they would later be interested in focusing on in the secondary literature. This stuff is so complicated, & the literature so voluminous, I feared they’d get swamped & not know what to focus on if they pick the articles before fully digesting the original texts. I’m still thinking about how to do this for philosophy courses in the future, though, as I think it is pedagogically a great idea.

    • Reverend says:

      Christina,
      Yeah, I can see the difficulty of this around a body of criticism with thinkers like Nietszche and Foucault. I wonder if some version of this might be providing a set or secondary sources they summarize and share centrally, and then have them find additional sources and rate them as a course. Kinda like an up vote/down vote Reddit. What I’m finding interesitng about this is it puts pressure on to cosnider what it means to find and use a source. In fact, not everything they find is going to be good, and that’s actually good 🙂

  3. Maureen Maher says:

    What a great way to create student ownership, participation and independence in your course!

  4. Jim … Kudos to you and your team for creating this awesome CRAAP Test video. I have shared it with other teachers as a tool to help their students select appropriate resources from the Internet. This video gem not only identifies five important elements in selecting sources but Giulia’s creative animations complement and enhance the message for younger students.

    Your creativity and willingness to risk take with students is to be commended. Allowing them to select relevant sources, in which they are interested, will result in tremendous “buy-in”. Furthermore, it potentially opens up avenues and resources that you, the instructors, may not be aware. Undoubtedly, a win-win situation in which your students can become engaged.

    Thanks to you and your team for sharing these innovative ideas and resources.

    Take care & keep smiling 🙂 Brian

    • Reverend says:

      Brian,
      Thank you, but I can take no credit for the video. That was all the UMW Library folks, Giulia Forsythe, and Gary Richards. I really lvoed the video beause it’s concise, fun, and beautifully animated.

      Also, you always make me feel good, I think you are nice!

  5. Pingback: Remixes, CRAAP Tests and Collaborative Unit Planning | Adventures in a Gifted Classroom

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